Olly Murphy full of hope festival fancy Thomas Darby can take next step up
Thomas Darby, a 25-1 chance for the Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham next March, heads a strong line-up for the David Brownlow Charitable Foundation ' Introductory' Hurdle (2.05) at Ascot on Friday.
The five-year-old leapt to festival prominence with an impressive maiden hurdle win at Cheltenham last month, after winning his only bumper.
Thomas Darby already has a higher RPR at 140 than any of the previous ten Introductory winners which include Irving, Jolly's Cracked It and Thomas Campbell.
Trainer Olly Murphy feels his youngster can progress again from his Cheltenham victory and said: "I certainly wouldn't swap him for anything in the race. It was obvious he was going to improve for his run at Cheltenham. He was very green and has hopefully come on a lot.
"His form couldn't have worked out any better with Colin's horse [Elixir De Nutz] winning the Grade 2 at Cheltenham last weekend."
Colin Tizzard takes on the Diana Whateley-owned hurdler again with French import Highest Sun, a winner on his only start but refused an official BHA rating to go handicap hurdling.
Tizzard said: "He looks the part and shows us plenty at home."
There are four other previous winners with another two having the same 5lb winner's penalty in Commanche Red and Didtheyleaveuoutto.
Chris Gordon will be hoping the rain stays around for his impressive Fontwell scorer Commanche Red, who has missed three races since because of the drier ground.
Didtheyleaveuoutto, who ran in the Cheltenham Festival bumper, made a winning start over hurdles in the JP McManus colours and his trainer Nick Gifford won this race with Dee Ee Williams in 2008.
Early start to catch De Boinville return
Racegoers will not want to be late to Ascot as Nico de Boinville tests his repaired thumb in the Tindle Newspapers Novices' Chase (1.00) before his date with Might Bite in the Betfair Chase at Haydock 24 hours later.
Nicky Henderson's stable jockey rides Wenyerreadyfreddie, who was an impressive winner in a novice handicap over course and distance earlier this month after chasing home Lil Rockerfeller on his debut over fences, and will face just six rivals.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: "He went up 15lb after his Ascot success, but I think that was as much for his second behind Lil Rockerfeller."
Wenyerreadyfreddie wears an unusual bridle for racehorses in a Micklem bridle and his trainer explained: "Wenyerreadyfreddie is particularly funny about his head and is very sensitive in the poll area."
The Micklem is designed to avoid the sensitive areas on a horse’s head by fitting higher up on the nose where the bone is thicker and avoiding any inward pressure on the molar teeth.
2015 Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer is among the seven-year-old's opposition and makes his first start over fences, after qualifying for the Pertemps Network Hurdle when third at Newbury last month on his seasonal return.
Fry on Jolly weather watch
It is a month short of three years since Jolly's Cracked It won the third of his races at Ascot when dead-heating with Sternrubin in the Grade 3 Ladbroke Hurdle.
After finishing down the field in the equivalent race the following year the nine-year-old has been off the course with a leg injury.
Ahead of his return in the Coutts Handicap Hurdle (3.50), trainer Harry Fry said: "Hopefully the ground doesn't dry back out after his leg problem but he is ready to get started again.
"Ascot is a track which he has a particularly good record at so it is a good place to start him back.
"The handicapper has given him a chance, dropping him 8lb with his long absence."
Jolly's Cracked It is still saddled with top weight in the race over the Ladbroke course and distance.
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